We drive the Mercedes-Benz X-Class
First things first, I feel we need to discuss the elephant in the article – this elephant isn’t Nellie, but rather Nissan.
You probably know by now and if you don’t, you will by the end of this sentence – that the Mercedes-Benz X-Class is based on the Nissan Navara. This is a bakkie which graced South Africa last year with features like 5-link rear suspension for improved comfort and performance. While some may say that under the body panels of the X-Class is a Navara, Mercedes say that everything we see or use has been retouched by a Mercedes engineer. Even so, Mercedes concede that without the involvement of Nissan, the X-class would of never made it from the boardroom table to South African tarmac in the space of four years. I am happy to take their word for it. Enough with the politics now, let’s judge this new bakkie like any other in it’s class and determine how the X-Class fares as the latest bakkie to enter the South African market.
A night drive through the roads of George finally led us to the launch location where we were greeted by a huge X which lit up the night sky via bright lights, along with an extravagant launch setup. After the meeting, greeting, general formalities and a video introduction to the vehicle, two Mercedes-Benz X-Class models burst through wooden doors – which were big enough to hold back an army. If looks are anything to go by, the X-Class is a Mercedes-Benz product. It shouts premium through design and from a visual perspective, lives up to it’s bold name. However, looks aren’t everything.
We were then introduced to the two model lines, Progressive and Power. While the latter is the more premium of the two, featuring chrome trim, bigger wheels and LED headlights, the Progressive is the model more suited for weekend picnics at the top of precipices. In all honesty though, I was initially disappointed with the interior of the Progressive model, I found the amount of interior plastic to be just too much for a Mercedes product. I could understand if this was a “workhorse” bakkie, but with a starting price of R670k, it makes you think. I did think deeper about it. Looking back after driving this car a few days ago, this model is more suited for the adventurers of the world, taking the vehicle to places where a more durable, rugged setup is needed. Perhaps in that setting, the interior plastics would definitely serve their purpose, but still not at that price. Like the words of Vannesa Carlton, “I’m torn”. There is an argument for both sides to be made I guess.
The interior featured on the Power model was much improved compared to the Progressive variant, with leather on the upper doors and dash. Better it may be, it wasn’t mind-blowing inside the cabin. This is the model for those who may take their X-Class across the border once in a blue moon, but generally, use it for the daily grind of a work commute and the school run. It’s the “Sandtonized” version. You can spice the interior up with optional accessories such as the wood trim. Both Progressive and Power models feature the Mercedes Command interface like many of their other vehicles, which is a big plus for the X class – as it does add a touch of class and modernity to the interior.
Seating was unlike many other bakkies on the road with good back and lumbar support, this was appreciated when attempting Devils Peak Pass – a route which has seldom been used by mainstream commuters since 1805 and featured rough, rocky passes and climbs. The reward to this route is the spectacular views you see at the top of the pass. Of course, the X-Class handled this with ease and we found ourselves more worried about getting the perfect shot as opposed to actually making it to the peak.
The range of genuine accessories available on the X-Class was pleasant to see, which items such as canopies, roll covers, style bars and bed liners all available. With the accessories available set to grow.
Throughout the day I sampled the X-Class 250d, which produces 140kW and is a product of Nissan. Yes, the power supplied was enough. Enough to go off-road, enough to overtake and enough to cruise comfortably. To nitpick, a little bit more power to go with this extremely comfortable bakkie would be great. Whilst travelling on dirt roads at speeds of over 100km/h was really nice, road driving reminded me of a well-built SUV – which is a great thing. In terms of overall comfort, the X-Class is as good as a Volkswagen Amarok, is it better? That’s negligible.
So let’s answer the question I asked in the title, does the Mercedes-Benz X-Class have the X Factor?
Maybe I set the bar to high in my head, maybe there has been too much “hype” around the vehicle and just maybe the concept models gave us too much of an expectation. It’s like being told you’re going to meet Beyonce’s sister. In your mind you’ll expect a replica of her to appear, but you may only end up with Solange.
If I look at the Mercedes-Benz X-Class as just another bakkie, it’s a great all-round product. However, I look at the X-class a Mercedes-Benz product, a brand which I grew up with and have always been fond of. Right now, the current X-Class line up is a premium product, and for a first attempt as a bakkie, its impressive. For me, it doesn’t quite have that “ X-Factor” I was looking for. It can sing, but it doesn’t hit the tones I expected it to, again this is mainly due to the badge that it wears – naturally we want to be blown away.
There is a potential saving grace however and it comes in the form of a V6. Expected during the first quarter of 2019, the V6 X-Class will feature a Mercedes 350d engine and going by the overseas models, the added luxury too. This could really be the model that sets the X-Class apart. Hopefully. If I was in the market for a premium bakkie, I would hold out until the V6 variant arrives next year for a true Mercedes-Benz experience. Go big or go home right?
Mercedes-Benz X-Class Pricing in South Africa
Mercedes-Benz X-Class comes with standard maintenance plan that covers your vehicle for 100 000 km / 6 Years, with the option of extending the maintenance plan up to a maximum of 180 000km/8 years
X-Class Progressive X 220 d 4X2 Manual : R 642,103.00
X-Class Progressive X 220 d 4X2 Auto : R 694,025.00
X-Class Progressive X 250 d 4X4 Manual : R 668,726.00
X-Class Progressive X 250 d 4X4 Auto : R 696,785.00
X-Class Power X 250 d 4X4 Manual : R 763,256.00
X-Class Power X 250 d 4X4 Auto : R 791,315.00
Also published on Medium.